Award-Winning Women In Natural Sciences Marks 40 Years 

Kimberly Godfrey couldn’t be prouder of the Philadelphia high school and charter school students that she’s taught over the years. Them and the other nearly 1,000 young Philly women who have passed through the award-winning Women In Natural Sciences program at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and on to college and successful careers in science, technology, engineering, math and other disciplines. 

Godfrey, the Academy’s manager of social justice programs, has been a leader of  WINS since 2014, and takes the success of each student to heart.  

“Sharing my passion with WINS and watching them experience so many “wow” moments in STEM for the first time is one of my favorite things about this work,” Godfrey said. “Through WINS, participants realize that not only do they belong in STEM, but that they can be STEM leaders in fields of natural sciences and engineering, and environmental stewards for their community. It is a privilege that our participants choose WINS as a part of their journey to success.”

Gere Johnson (l) and Tamira Bell examine fish specimens

Now with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation (2018) and 40 years of growth and accomplishments, WINS is ready to celebrate bigtime. And the public is invited! 

Enjoy free museum admission and meet the WINS students Sept. 17 and 18 

Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 17 and 18, the Academy is offering free admission to the public and the opportunity to meet current WINS students and their Academy mentors. From 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, the students will be on hand to talk about their experiences and provide science demonstrations inspired by their interactions and fieldwork with the Academy’s own scientists. 

On Saturday the museum will close at 3 p.m. instead of the regular 5 p.m. as the institution welcomes hundreds of WINS alumnae from around the country for an anniversary tribute dinner and celebration.

Field work in the stream with Academy scientists provides unique learning experiences

WINS gives high school young women what they need to succeed 

The Academy created Women in Natural Sciences in 1982 in response to the growing interest in science education programs for underserved female high school students and a national effort to increase science opportunities for underrepresented audiences. Since then, WINS has used environmental science research and education as the foundation to engage upwards of 1,000 young women in the development of their futures by providing them with the information, encouragement and confidence they need to succeed.  

“Our primary goals are to improve understanding of basic ecological principles and scientific methods, provide activities that foster personal achievement, self-confidence and communication skills, and encourage students to enter science fields after college,” Godfrey said. “Besides a strong emphasis on academics and science, WINS provides a nurturing environment that allows young women to interact with peers and share new experiences.” 

On a paleontological field trip to Red Hill, Pa., which has yielded valuable Devonian-age fossils

In the School District of Philadelphia, just over 65% of freshmen complete high school, and 70% continue to college. WINS boasts a 100% high school graduation rate for four-year WINS participants, and 97% advance to college. 88.5% of WINS alumnae graduate within six years and 54% earn STEM degrees (primarily in the natural and health sciences) compared to 1% of all Black and African American students who graduate from the Philadelphia public and charter schools. 

Each year WINS serves an average of 70 young women who display motivation and promise but lack opportunities for enrichment. Eighth-grade teachers and counselors in public and charter schools across Philadelphia pick the students to recommend, and WINS invites about 300 nominees to participate in a selection process that includes an application and an interview. Ultimately 25 emerging freshmen are picked to experience the time of their lives. 

By focusing on households facing financial limitations and headed by single parents, grandparents or guardians, WINS assures they are providing access to historically underserved communities of color. 

Tytisha Harris and Carmen Andrade hands on with a fish specimen

“WINS has the potential to interrupt cycles of intergenerational poverty while steadily diversifying the pipeline of STEM professionals in our region and beyond,” said  Academy Vice President of Community Learning Maurice Baynard. “The program also merges STEM experience and education by providing compassionate, welcoming and inclusive personal support and connections to higher education and professional opportunities that make it unique.” 

In traditionally male-dominated science, technology, engineering and math fields, there are multiple barriers to women’s participation, especially for women of color. “WINS understands and acknowledges the unique struggles and strengths of young girls of color and is designed to allow them to thrive,” Baynard said. 

To learn more about WINS, visit the Academy’s website.

By Carolyn Belardo 

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